Taxonomy

Hired men squat around a hole in the ground. The 19th century gentleman naturalist hefts a dirt-caked seashell and frowns. “It’s certainly a cephalopod, but of what kind? Ammonoid? Nautiloid? Fetch me a glass. If the siphuncle was fossilized, all the easier to tell, but a good look at the septal necks should do the trick.”

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“I wonder what we will call this thing?” he says excitedly.

 ***

The 21st century young professional is halfway done. She picks up her phone, flips through Twitter, skims an article, skims related articles, filters for inspirational image macros, puts the phone down and writes another sentence. She picks up the phone again. She hesitates.

What am I doing? she thinks. It’s certainly work, when I’m working, but it’s not work when I’m not. I don’t ‘go to work’ in the sense that work occurs between nine and five and leisure – whatever that is – occurs before and after. It’s work for fifteen minutes, then two, then twenty-five, maybe an hour, interspersed by periods of not-work. The work/not-work continues when I’m home. My phone blips the same for think pieces and work emails.

What should I call this thing, this ‘not-work’? I can’t quite call it leisure. There’s nothing leisurely about sitting in a cubicle in stiff clothes hunched over a smartphone.

“I’ll look it up,” she mumbles.

In five minutes, she has an answer. “Leaky,” she says. “Leaky leisure.”

Dissatisfied, she puts down her phone. She types another sentence, mouths an awkward portmanteau, shakes her head. She drags her phone from the desk and heads to lunch.

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